Google must upgrade hosted apps to win over IT departments

Google must provide stronger data models along with role-based access and records management archiving capabilities before most IT managers will take its Google Apps hosted application suite seriously, analysts said this week.

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Google must provide stronger data models along with role-based access and records management archiving capabilities before most IT managers will take its Google Apps hosted application suite seriously, analysts said this week.

The search tool maker's hosted offerings are getting a closer look by IT managers looking to compare them with Microsoft's Online Services hosted offering, which was unveiled last September.

"I think Google has underestimated the complexity of the enterprise space," said Guy Creese, an analyst at Burton Group. "So far they basically have [delivered] consumer products and slapped an enterprise name on them. They talk a lot about usability, but they fall down" due to the lack of an enterprise data model, he said.

At the AIIM enterprise content management conference in Boston Matthew Glotzbach, director of Product Management for Enterprise at Google, told ComputerWorld that 500,000 organisations are using Google Apps, though he also acknowledged that large organisations are so far hesitant to join in.

"One challenge we've had is building that enterprise credibility," conceded Glotzbach, who added that the company expects the consumer and business versions of Google apps to maintain "90% consistency" going forward.

Burton Group’s Creese said Google must further differentiate the versions, noting that several new features must be added to meet the needs of large IT operations. Some of those include data archiving tools to augment records management searches, email distribution list functionalities and role-based management tools.

"Somebody worried about a soccer schedule is not worried about records management - and they don't have a distribution list," Creese noted about the difference between consumer and business users. "It's all of this underlying way of managing the business that [Google] is missing."

Matt Cain, an analyst at Gartner, added that Google Apps won't be seriously considered by enterprises until the company can show it can support reporting, audit trails, and service-level agreements of large-scale commercial users.

"[Google] has everything else, but that's what we need to see," remarked Cain. "There's a lot of scepticism and let's wait and see," among corporate users.

Nonetheless, Gartner expects Google and Microsoft to be the primary providers of hosted applications to corporate users when the market to take off between 2010 and 2012.

Google first launched the Google Apps offering in 2006 as a free service and began charging in 2007 with the introduction of a Premier Edition. Last week Google further beefed up beefed up the service.

Microsoft this week countered the addition of Google Sites – an obvious competitor of Microsoft SharePoint – by it announcing plans to let small businesses use some of its key software applications over the internet later this year.

Cain said Microsoft will trail Google Apps' capabilities until it adds Microsoft Office applications to the hosted suite. "If you look at the way the industry is playing out and the way Google is going, I would have to imagine that the lights are burning long and bright over in Redmond working on hosted versions of Office," he said.

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